Members of the Ukrainian community in London, Ont., and several international students from Ukraine are expected to share their stories Sunday afternoon as part of an event aimed at raising funds to support the Canadian Red Cross and those impacted by Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine.
The London Multicultural Community Association (LMCA) is spearheading the initiative, in partnership with several other local groups including the London branch of the London Ukrainian Congress, the London Ukrainian Centre and the Polish Combatants Association.
The event, set to run from 2-5:30 p.m. at the Polish Combatants’ Hall at 80 Ann St., just southwest of Oxford and Talbot streets, comes just over a month since Russia invaded Ukraine.
In that time, more than 10 million people have had to flee their homes, including some 3.7 million who have fled the country according to the United Nations. Another 6.5 million have been displaced within Ukraine.
At least 1,081 civilians have been killed during the war and 1,707 have been injured, the UN says, noting actual figures are believed to be “considerably higher” due to reporting and confirmation delays.
“Many of them have friends and families in Ukraine, so they are updated on a daily, sometimes hourly basis,” said LMCA President Jack Malkin, referring to members of the local Ukrainian community who will be in attendance.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to learn firsthand what they are experiencing. Usually, in times of crisis or catastrophe, we look at the big numbers and we kind of move on, but when we hear personal stories, it’s easier for us to relate and actually educate ourselves about what’s really going on there.”
All donations collected during the event will go to support the Canadian Red Cross and its ongoing Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal campaign. The Canadian Red Cross says donations allow it and Red Crescent Movement to “respond to humanitarian needs in Ukraine and surrounding countries.”
Of the more than $82 million the Canadian Red Cross says it has contributed to the international Red Cross so far as part of its Ukraine campaign, two-thirds is going to support people in Ukraine, while one-third is going to help those displaced in surrounding countries.
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Malkin says someone from the Red Cross is expected to be on hand for the event, as well as some 10 to 20 people who are members of the local Ukrainian community or international students from Ukraine.
The event will also feature a display of Ukrainian arts and culture, along with dancing by members of the London Barvinok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.
“It will be an informal event – not (one) that people will stand in front of the audience and speak – people can interact with them directly and ask questions and share experiences and so on,” he said.
“We can’t even imagine how difficult it (would) be if houses around you (were) being destroyed or there’s a lack of food or health-care services. It’s really horrible to sit here and to be spectators to one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, probably since World War Two.”
With no immediate end in sight to the ongoing conflict, Malkin says it’s possible that a future fundraiser may be held with a focus on local international students from Ukraine who may now find themselves with limited means.
“Their parents may not be able to send funds anymore. They may not be able to go back to Ukraine, so they will need some resources to be able to stay here… Perhaps when Ukrainian refugees come to London, we may be able to help them as well.”
Those unable to attend Sunday’s event can donate to the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal campaign through LMCA via the Canadian Red Cross website.
Donations can also be made through the London Ukrainian Centre by phone at 519-686-9811, or by email e-transfer at email@example.com.
It’s not the only event taking place in the city where Londoners can show their support for the Ukrainian people.
More than $30,000 was raised Thursday night for the Red Cross as part of a two-night benefit concert at London’s Aeolian Hall featuring 23 musicians and two choirs of around 57 people.
The benefit concert ends Friday night.
— with files from Sawyer Bogdan and the Associated Press
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